Have been meaning to write this mini-post for a little while, because it pertains to games and marketing in today's climate - and something that impressed me when it comes to getting your game noticed by the press.

Basically, emailed press releases are fine, sure, and sending random promotional items like Xbox faceplates and suchlike also gets some attention, but I was rather impressed when the following package arrived for me a few weeks back:

Basically, it was a vintage stamped envelope containing a cover letter from the 'mysterious' Pini Society, whose webpage reveals that it's an obscure brotherhood comprising "archaeologists, explorers, and adventurers [who] have traveled the world seeking... relics for centuries".

Furthermore, there was a notebook filled with press cuttings and apparently handwritten text into ancient discoveries in there - plus a wood-covered USB key stamped with the Pini Society's crest. At the time, the Pini Society's homepage didn't even have information about the game it's promoting on there, so it made it additionally mysterious.

In any case, inserting the USB key revealed a casual game themed around the alleged Society, and in due course I got a press release explaining further: "I'm contacting you today because we recently sent you a package containing a new downloadable PC game called "The Pini Society: The Remarkable Truth." The game, which was developed by Arkadium and is scheduled to launch on May 27, is designed to engage, entertain and educate new audiences about The Pini Society and some of the planet's richest archaeological discoveries over the past 200 years. I hope you'll have time to check it out and spread the word."

And the game itself is now available, and handily reviewed by Gamezebo. It actually reminds me a little of elements of Pandora's Box, absolutely Alexey Pazhitnov's most under-rated game. But as can be seen from the user reviews, it hasn't completely gelled with casual gamers.

In addition, some other demographics were a bit confused by it too. For example, the UnFiction ARG forums briefly considered it as a trailhead, before realizing it was closer to straight marketing than an actual ARG.

In addition, the editor of Archaeology.about.com reviewed the game, and has an adorable semi-scholarly fret about it:

"So, in contrast to what the site currently implies, the Pini Society has no plans to seek and excavate sites, purchase sites for preservation, or publish scholarly reports. However, the manufacturer does plan on donating 1% of their total game proceeds from 2008 to already existing historical/cultural preservation efforts. I think that's admirable, and makes the $20 a bit more worth spending. I just wish they'd say so on the webpage and not confuse the Pini Society with, say, the Archaeological Conservancy."

Along similar lines, The New Yorker recently profiled archaeologists critiquing the new Indiana Jones movie, and The Pini Society - certainly redolent of Indiana vs. the Dan Brown-ian Da Vinci Code mysteriousness - is indeed, hardly true to life - it's a fun, stylized conceit.

But the whole promotion concept had style and forethought behind it, and heck, it's made me write a whole post about it. So I guess what I'm saying is - more mysterious journals, and less Xbox 360 faceplates in game marketing might make the world a more interesting place. It also might get journalists and influencers re-engaged with marketeers - something which is increasingly a problem, given the way the Web works.